Last week was the first week of Spring. Not just officially, but in actuality. PanKwake and I managed to make it to the park…THREE times. Meaning that it was sunny and warm enough for my picky autistic child.
Of course, the park means one thing…sand castles. We have been building them for years. And we have HUNDREDS of photos of the ones we have built. You see when she was younger she had loads of trouble with the impermanence of them. If someone came along and knocked hers down, you could count on a MAJOR meltdown. Every single time.
Then one day an idea just magically came to me…take photographs with your phone. Then remind her that she will always have them. It worked! Except for the few times Mommy forgot to take pictures of course…bad Mommy. One day, I swear we are going to print them all out and do an artist exhibition in the living room of them.
But something special happened this week. One of those moments when I know that my beloved PanKwake is going to be just fine in the end. That she will find HER unique path to happiness, success and inclusion as much or as little as she wants with society.
We were building our sand castles when another of her Aspie friends came up. Emily had told me that someone said hello to her but she could not remember them. So when this little girl came up I reminded Emily they knew one another from swimming and the pieces fell into place for her.
Now her little friend was at the park with another friend, who was not happy that she suddenly was engrossed in building sand castles with PanKwake. Three way friendships between women, no matter their age, is problematic, but wonderfully strong. Even as an adult, it takes work. So three little girls, two with high-functioning autism? But with a bit of help from me in terms of introductions and explanations about autism, those bumps were quickly smoothed over.
Then the most miraculous thing happened…these three little girls worked together to build a whole sand village.
Now that may not sound like much to you, but for the child that always has to be in control (times two remember) that is a major accomplishment. They even managed to include two other little girls, one very young, as helpers.
And I saw the years of work that I have put into PanKwake’s social skills finally begin to pay off. First of all, she actually allowed her friend to lead. Acceding to the plans and wishes of another is a major step forward for her. But if that was not enough, a couple of times when she did something that her friend did not like, she actually apologized!
I am sure you are asking…so what is the big deal with that? I make my kids apologize all the time.
Well, I don’t. I have not in years tried to force my child to apologize. Not since we left school behind. For one thing, why? An apology is meaningless if you have to force them. I would rather have one genuine apology from the heart than a thousand forced ones. And that is about the ratio I got…LOL!
The other thing that is significant is how she did. Her words were almost an exact mirror of the ones that I use when apologizing to her. “I’m sorry. My bad.” You see modelling the appropriate behaviors is how I teach my child social skills. Not by long lectures and forced compliance. But by living the values I want her to have. So I am the one that apologizes…and often.
To finally hear those words mirrored back to me…I turned my back so she would not see the tears in my eyes in that moment. Of course, later on when we were alone and more quiet I told her how proud I was of her for that (another of those values…praise).
That day was confirmation of all that I have worked for almost five years to accomplish. The things that I have sacrificed a career for, love and in some ways my own life to give her the best possible chance in life. And in that moment all those meltdowns…all the judgemental commitments of others…all the stress…was worth it.
Because she is worth so much more than all the success, money or things in this world.
I only wish more parents were blessed with autistic children so they too could slow down and just enjoy the simply accomplishments of being a parent.